Loyola celebrates life of Rev. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., former superior general of the Society of Jesus
In a landmark address during his 25-year tenure as superior general of the Society of Jesus, Rev. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., challenged U.S. Jesuit colleges and universities to take up an agenda of teaching, research, and service “with critical understanding and deep conviction, with buoyant faith and much hope.” The man who inspired those 28 institutions to focus even more clearly on mission died on Nov. 26, 2016, in Beirut. He was 87.
Fr. Kolvenbach was born in the Netherlands. He entered the novitiate on Sept. 7, 1948, pronounced first vows on Sept. 8, 1950, and professed solemn vows on Aug. 15, 1969. He began his career in Beirut, where he dedicated himself to the study of Arabic through direct contact with people and specialized in the Armenian language and literature. He studied at St. Joseph’s University in Beirut for four years and later became professor of linguistics and Armenian language and literature there. In 1974 he was named vice-provincial of the Near East.
In 1981 he was called to Rome as rector of the Pontifical Oriental Institute and was elected superior general in 1983. He convoked and presided over General Congregation 34, participated in many Synods of Bishops, was a member of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life, and was a consultor for the Congregation for Oriental Churches.
After he resigned as superior general in 2008, Fr. Kolvenbach returned to the Near East Province to continue working on various themes related to his specialization in Armenian language and literature.
"The legacy Fr. Kolvenbach has left is one that will elevate the work of the Society of Jesus for generations to come," said Rev. Brian F. Linnane, S.J., president of Loyola University Maryland. "He overcame challenge after challenge as he gave of himself to his brother Jesuits and to people around the world, truly living and working and serving for the greater glory of God."
Following Fr. Kolvenbach’s October 2000 address on faith and justice, Loyola established the Kolvenbach Research Grant Program to foster and encourage socially engaged research in and around Baltimore. The program seeks to honor Loyola’s research strengths and galvanize the University’s commitment to faith and justice work that serves the needs of the underserved in the Baltimore community and beyond.
Fr. Kolvenbach’s words served as inspiration for the first two priorities—Ignatian Citizenship and Ignatian Educational Innovation—of Loyola’s new strategic plan, The Ignatian Compass: Guiding Loyola University Maryland to Ever Greater Excellence.
The funeral Mass for Fr. Kolvenbach will be held in Beirut on Nov. 30. A memorial Mass will be held at the Church of Gesù in Rome on Dec. 2. The Loyola community will celebrate his life at a Mass in Alumni Memorial Chapel at 12:10 p.m. on Nov. 30.